Vented vs. Ventless Commercial Dishwashers: The Differences

As the Washington Post aptly puts it, dishwashers are the unsung heroes of the kitchen. If you run a bustling foodservice, you’ll likely agree. Proper washing and sanitizing of soiled ware is always the priority for the sake of food safety and efficient service. Therefore, your commercial dishwasher becomes more of a partner than an appliance.

Operators need to consider many factors when opting for a new commercial dishwashing unit. The type of unit, their kitchen’s layout, output production, energy and water consumption, and hot water or chemical sanitizing configurations are just a few.

It’s important that your commercial dishwasher has a way to remove the excess steam and heat–which traditionally, is what a dishwasher hood (or “vent”) would serve the purpose of.

Now a newer innovation is making waves in warewashing, warranting  your attention: ventless dishwashers.

Vent vs. Ventless Dishwashers

Traditional commercial dishmachines require a Type II hood to safely remove steam vapor from the machine while it operates. Tom Gatschet, Sales Director for Champion Industries, a leading manufacturer of commercial dishwashing solutions, describes this process:

“Vented machines will draw conditioned air through the vent as long as the machine is operational, whereas ventless machines do not.”

If you opt for a traditional commercial dishwasher, you’ll need to ensure a hood is installed to remove this excess steam from the kitchen. Neglecting to do so not only creates an uncomfortable environment and poses safety concerns for kitchen staff, but could result in demerits from your local health inspector.

Ventless dishwashers, on the other hand, easily alleviate these concerns while offering more flexibility, given kitchen layout variations. Ventless units allow operators to install anywhere in the kitchen, so there’s no need to worry about installing underneath an existing hood or purchasing a new hood to be installed in addition to the unit.

Gatschet continues:

“The benefits of Champion’s ventless models are they don’t require a hot water connection, and there are no hood or hood installation costs. Since our ventless units don’t use hot water, they are often more economical to operate.”

Ventless Dishwashers with Energy Recovery

Most ventless units feature a box mounted on top that serves as the main ventilation system for the scalding steam circulating within. Many manufacturers like Champion, Hobart, and Jackson Warewashing Systems, have taken the ventless innovation one step farther by including energy and steam recovery, saving on both energy and water utility costs.

Essentially, ventless dishwashers with energy recovery recycle the hot steam vapor to heat the incoming cycle. It’s important to note that not all ventless machines employ this technology. Many simply discard this water, letting it cool back into a liquid state before dumping down the drain.

Jackson Warewashing has their SEER line of ventless undercounter dishwashers; SEER an acronym for Steam Elimination and Energy Recovery. These units are built with a fan that extracts the hot water vapor from the previous cycle, passes it over the coils to provide a 40-degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature. As this vapor starts to condense, it is channeled into the wash tank. This process virtually eliminates all steam inside the chamber.

Jonathan Akin, President of Jackson Warewashing, offers up this insight:

“One of the things that has always been an occurrence with dishwashers is you’re washing with hot water at 160 degrees, and you’re sanitizing with 180-degree water. That generates a lot of steam, and when you open the door at the end of the cycle, you get a big blast of it. If that was only happening a couple times a day, it wouldn’t really be a nuisance. However, the reality is, with a busy restaurant, washing and sanitizing dishes only takes two minutes. Operators are doing this dozens of times a day and the steam is coming out into a fast-paced work environment.
“In some cases, operators even install these machines in areas where their customers are – like the bar. The steam can make for an uncomfortable environment for the customer. SEER takes all the steam that has built up during the cycle, and at the end, a fan comes on removing it from the chamber and cooling the steam to a point where it condensates and turns back into water. The water and heat energy are then transferred to the next cycle.”

Steve Willoughby, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Jackson, reiterates:

“Units with steam elimination and energy recovery are designed specifically to be in customer-facing environments. If you’re dining out in a fancy restaurant, you don’t want to smell those customers or see all that steam pooling up. Here, we’ve eliminated both to make sure the environment remains aesthetically-pleasing.”

Many of these units with energy recovery save so much energy they qualify for Energy Star rebates. View Energy Star Dishwashers here.

The Drawback of Ventless Dishwashers

One benefit vented dish machines have over ventless ones is their output production. This varies depending on the brand, the type of machine, and cycle settings, but traditional output production for standard, upright door type units can be expected at approximately 60 racks per hour. Ventless machines, on the other hand, can be expected to produce around 40 racks per hour.

Another drawback of ventless dishwashers is the cost–You can expect to pay anywhere from $15,000mid $20,000 for a ventless dishwasher. 

This is quite a price jump from the average cost of commercial dishwashers with a vent/hood, which averages between $2,000$15,000.

Keep in mind, prices will vary depending on the model and brand you choose.

A Note About Hood Types

As noted, if you opt for a traditional vented dish machine, it’s important to have a Type II hood installed. Type II hoods are specifically designed to remove hot steam, a byproduct of commercial dishwashing. These aren’t to be confused with Type I hoods which are used for the removal of grease during commercial cooking applications. These usually feature a fire suppression system for safety, whereas Type II hoods do not.

You can learn more about the differences in hood types in our article Restaurant Hood Systems: Why They Matter. You can also browse our selection of Type II Dishwasher Condensate Hoods here.

Dishwasher FAQ’s

Does a Dishwasher Need a Vent?

Nope! Many commercial dishwashers operate without a vent. You can explore and shop ventless options here at Central Restaurant Products.


How Do Dishwashers Vent Steam?

Commercial dishwashers that have a vent discard steam through the vent, typically situated above the dishwasher’s door. 

Ventless commercial dishwashers discard steam by capturing the steam from a washing cycle, running it through a set of refrigerated coils, and converting that steam back to hot water while putting conditioned air of 70º F or lower back into the room.

Does a Low Temperature Dishwasher Need a Hood?

No–for low-temperature dishwashers, a hood (or vent) is typically not necessary; especially when considering the possibility and usefulness of ventless options!

What Should I Look for in a Commercial Dishwasher?

Keep these 5 features in mind when choosing your next commercial dishwasher:

  1. Temperature Preferences: Do you want a low-temp or high-temp commercial dishwasher?
  2. Size and Capacity: What size limitations do you have in your kitchen? How much space do you need inside the dishwasher?
  3. Cost: How much can you afford?
  4. Energy Efficiency: Do you prefer an energy-efficient commercial dishwasher? Or is energy use not a concern?
  5. Type of Commercial Dishwasher: Are you looking for an all-purpose? Or are you looking for a specialty commercial dishwasher, such as a glasswasher?

How are Commercial Dishwashers Different?

In comparison to residential dishwashers, commercial dishwashers work much faster and more efficiently. This ensures that even during the busiest of times–your staff can get dishes clean and dry in a timely matter and have them ready for customers.

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